Washington parents should encourage their children to participate in Smarter Balanced testing this year.
THE Smarter Balanced assessment is an important tool for educators and parents to gauge whether Washington’s children are prepared for college and ready to compete for jobs in the future.
Federal law requires at least 95 percent of students to participate or schools and districts risk losing funding and awards. Yet some districts, including the Seattle Public Schools board, are toying with the idea of flouting that standard.
This isn’t just about money. The Smarter Balanced testing reflects the new national Common Core standards. For the first time, Washington will soon have data to compare how its students are performing with other participating states. Measuring academic progress ensures that limited funding is targeted to struggling students while they are still in school.
For those students who meet certain state standards on the Smarter Balanced assessment, Washington state colleges and universities have agreed to let them skip remedial coursework and go straight into credit-bearing classes.
Districts should support the state Board of Education’s two goals for this year:
• All schools will meet the 95 percent participation requirement.
The sooner schools comply, the faster Washington students can get used to an assessment that’ll be around for the foreseeable future.”
• The state will reduce the number of students needing remedial coursework in college by 10 percent.
The sooner schools comply, the faster Washington students can get used to an assessment that’ll be around for the foreseeable future.
While more than half of juniors in the state refused to take the inaugural assessments last year, everything changes in the 2017-2018 school year when Smarter Balanced becomes a graduation requirement for 11th-graders in the class of 2019.
In a political statement, in part against overtesting and the Smarter Balanced assessment itself, the Seattle Public Schools Board has introduced a resolution asking the state to create an alternative assessment system and reaffirm opt-out rights for students in Washington’s largest district.
Superintendent Larry Nyland warned last week that finding an alternative testing framework is possible, but the resolution also implies that “we’re encouraging parents to opt out.” That works against the federal law’s 95 percent participation requirement and irresponsibly invites adverse financial consequences.
The district is already under scrutiny from the state and U.S. Department of Education for special education and school discipline compliance problems.
The board has scheduled a final vote on this assessment resolution May 18.
Members should tread carefully before they catch the feds’ attention for the wrong reasons — again.